Blue Eagles Return Seven Starters
Expectations are high in the 2010 season that the Magnolia Blue Eagle Baseball Team can repeat what it has done the past several years, including a state championship in 2006. The Blue Eagles are bracing for an icy reception this spring from opponents. And, it’s just that attitude that could propel the Big Blue to its goal of a West Virginia State AA Championship.
Success often encourages participation and that seems more evident this season. Magnolia’s roster is bulging with 25 players for 37-year Head Coach Dave Cisar.
Magnolia has a nearly intact the team that was 15-6 last season that was one game away from a trip to the Dance – a rarity in high school baseball.
Almost all nine positions are filled with returning players, most of them with additional seasoning in Legion ball last summer. They know now that they have a bulls eye on their back and will be facing the best each opponent has to offer. “I like to see that,” said Blue Eagle All-State hurler Justin Fox. “When you play the best, it only makes you better.”
But, before the Eagles can move forward, they must replace two First-Team All-Conference players in Andrew Robinson and Jordan Ash. They also need to find a successor to utility outfielder Ben Clark.
Fox is the clear-cut favorite to lead the pitching staff, which also includes seniors Seth Pay and Mason Rine, junior Jordan Moore and freshman Kyle Elliott. Also, Drew Goddard, Chuck McElaney. Seth Heslop and Chase Cain will be thrown into the mix on occasion.
Fox, Pay and Mason should be the Blue Eagles’ one-two-three punch. Fox had a 4-3 record last season with 43 innings pitched. Pay, a lefty flame thrower, finished last season with a 3-2 record and 25 innings pitched. Rine was 2-0 and threw 16 innings. The trio pitched a combined 67 percent of the innings pitched. Fox will be called on to close out some games.
Although he normally plays right field when he isn’t pitching, Pay will start in center this season, while Landon Herrick will start in right and Davey Howell in left. Jayson Keller and Tyler Myers look to be the backup outfielders.
Traeh Keller was the starter behind the plate last season and handled the pitching corps quite well. In addition, he has some pop to his bat. Howell caught the Eagles first game of the season, while Keller gets his needed practices in to be eligible to participate. Also, the Eagles will use Bentley Knight behind the plate.
Last season, the Big Blue had five returning starters hit for a .330 batting average or better and one that was close to .300. Howell had a .428; Fox had a .403; Treah Keller had a .351; Rine had a .334 and Pay had a .333.
Herrick ended the season with a solid .291 batting average. Hitting can be contagious. If these six can continue to light it up – and several other players will step up – the Eagles will put some runs on the board.
Cisar believes that there are three keys to a successful season, with the first one being defense; second is having great leadership on and off the field; and the third is that the kids must work hard.
Magnolia polled at or near the top most of last season, and it took a late surge from Point Pleasant in the playoffs to end the Blue’s season. The Eagles look to begin the 2010 season reloaded and ready to battle all the way.
This year’s squad looks pretty settled defensively and should be better offensively. “Oh, we’ll run,” commented Cisar. “I don’t like to give up outs and I’m not a walk-sacrifice-fielder’s choice or error type of guy. We’ll make a play if we feel the catcher is slow to second or the pitcher doesn’t have a real quick move.”
Jordan Moore will play first base and will be a designated hitter, too. Moore injured his ankle during practice but should be able to go pretty soon. If not, the Eagles have Drew Simmons, who started game one and will be ready to go.
Fox will hold down the hot corner while, Rine, when he isn’t pitching, will be playing second base. Backing Rine up will be Tanner Hanna. At shortstop, freshman Kyle Elliott will handle the duties and will be thrown into the mix on the mound too.
But, all the infield starters are pitchers, and moving players around usually hurts a team, but the Eagles will use Derek Fruner as a spot starter. He will be the starting utility player and play either short, second or third, depending on who is pitching.
Rounding out the Eagles are Randy Peffer, Ryan Walton, Zach Aarick, Bret Brill, Mike Winters, Garrett Emch, and Chandler Seth.
Magnolia has four seniors, seven juniors, five sophomores and nine freshman on the team. Instead of rebuilding every other year, the Blue Eagles keep on reloading, reloading and reloading.
Cisar believes that both baseball and softball are endurance contests. There will be ups and downs throughout, including injuries, winning streaks and rain outs. “We are not taking anything for granted,” said Cisar. “I’m excited for this group. If we play with enthusiasm and hustle and if we play solid defense, we will have a successful season.”
Also a major key component in having a successful season is the weather. If the weather is good, the kids will be outside practicing and playing games. But, when it’s raining, the real time hitting and game conditions are not there and its hard for the kids to keep their edge.
It takes good hitting, good fielding, good pitching and great leadership into having a successful season and Magnolia has them all. With six starters back having close to .300 batting, they have outstanding hitting.
They have excellent defense, with all three outfield positions being taken by returning letterman; and, they have key ingredients back in the infield with three pitchers back who pitched almost 70 percent time last season. They also have leadership in coaching.
Magnolia plays one of the toughest schedules in Class AA and plays more than half of its schedule against very good Class AAA schools.
Magnolia hurler Justin “Tank” Fox struck out 15 batters, while scattering a pair of singles, enroute to a convincing 4-0 shutout of the Brooke Bruins to open the 2010 season. He helped himself at the plate, too, with a solo home run.
After fanning the first batter of the game, Fox gave up his only walk of the game before ending the first frame with another strike out.
Seth Pay opened the home half with a walk and stolen second and scored the first run of the game on a Mason Rine single.
Fox struck out the side in the second and Magnolia scored its second run in the second, after Landon Herrick reached first on an error and later scored on a Pay double.
Magnolia scored once more in the fourth inning. After a fly out, Derek Fruner singled and stole second. A few batters later, he scored on a Kyle Elliott single. Magnolia got an insurance run on a homer by Fox in the fifth inning.
Fox was strong all night. He worked the plate and threw bullets, keeping the Bruin batters off time with his change of speeds and pin-point accuracy.
Pay led the offense with a single and a double, while plating a run and Elliott added a single and knocked in a pair of RBIs. Fox smacked a long home run, while Rine added a single and a double. Fruner, Davey Howell and Andrew Goddard each singled for Magnolia.
The Eagles junior varsity team also won by the score of 8-7.
The Eagles will host Robert C. Bryd tonight and Parkersburg South April 5, both games at 5 p.m. They will travel to Wheeling Park April 1 at 5 p.m. and River High School April 6 at 4:30 p.m.